Classical Education and the Dyslexic Child
Classical Education has a reputation for being a teaching method for the gifted. It focuses on the rigorous study of things that we don’t think of as part of our everyday lives, unfamiliar things like Latin, Rhetoric, and Logic. It seems intimidating. Unfortunately, this misconception has led many parents of dyslexic children away from the method, which is truly tragic. I have found that Classical Education is, in fact, a very important part of helping my dyslexic child to overcome her learning disabilities.
Latin is key to about 50% of our English vocabulary (Classical Education and the Homeschool by Callihan, Jones & Wilson). It is the root of understanding.
Orton-Gillingham, the premiere method of teaching reading and spelling to dyslexics, includes Latin in their materials, and their reasoning is simple: Dyslexics often struggle with dividing words into phonetic bits and then re-assembling those bits into a logical whole. Learning Latin allows students to understand the meaning of those pieces and gives them a more in-depth comprehension of words. Dyslexics, even more than the general population need to have this resource in their tool-kit.
Language is a large focus of Classical Education, which may make it seem inappropriate for the dyslexic student. Children who struggle with reading are often thought of as incapable of studying great literature with all of its multi-syllable words, complicated language and levels of meaning, but we need to be careful not to confuse isolation from challenging sources with helping our students to overcome their reading struggles.
Great literature increases vocabulary, expands understanding of figurative speech, and exposes us to worlds outside of our own. It is an important window in to the world, and one from which we must not deprive our children.
Reading is necessary to any well rounded education, but this does not mean that students are restricted to only books within their reading level. Technology is a huge asset to the dyslexic student. Audiobooks, text-to-speech programs, and shared reading are all ways to experience the depth of literature outside of independent study.
One of the greatest things I have learned from Classical Education is that exceptional learning comes from exceptional sources. Of course there are a few children that will become an Autodidact, but the dyslexic child (along with most other children) will need to be guided and helped along the way. Experiencing quality literature is far more important than the method of reading. They must focus not just on their weakness, but on ways to work around that that weakness to gain great strength.
A Place to Excel
Children with learning disabilities need to be given the opportunity to find a place in which they can succeed. Many dyslexic students find this in the fine arts. Architecture, movement, and sculpture have all been found to take advantage of the spatial abilities inherent in the dyslexic’s brain. Offering our students time to study the masters and discover their own talent gives them an amazing opportunity to experience success.
The Trivium (stages of learning)
The greatest benefit of Classical Education is that it intentionally and incrementally trains students to learn for themselves. This pattern of moving through the grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages is truly beneficial for dyslexic children.
Education is all about challenging children in the subjects in which they excel, and encouraging them where they struggle. Classical Education offers a great balance in this respect. It intentionally divides learning into stages of acquiring facts, connecting those facts, and then questioning and expressing what you believe. It gives our students an excellent foundation.
Parents of dyslexic students must be dedicated to diligently helping their students as they approach more difficult literature, but the benefits are exponentially greater than the sacrifice. In some ways, teachers of dyslexic students are at an advantage. When reading aloud together, deep conversations come naturally and wonderful discussions result. These discussions are the heart of the classical method.
Dyslexia isn’t an easy learning disability to deal with. It requires diligent instruction, repetition, and effort. The rigor of Classical Education has offered my daughter not only a thorough quality education, but access to the essential tools that she needs to overcome her disability. We are still walking this path, but our goal is that she will become an adult who is not only capable of learning, but one who can actively and intentionally analyze the world around her regardless of her struggles.
Giftedness is not essential to Classical Education. What is holding you back?
Sheryl is living her dream in the house on Liberty Hill where she is a full time wife, mother, and teacher. She is passionate about turning children’s natural curiosity into activities that will inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Learn more about her adventures at libertyhillhouse.com.